Rather than transport the burgers and barbeque chicken from Leonard’s, head chef Nick Stanton (along with co-owners Guy Bentley, Mark Catsburg and John Harper) is planning an Italian-American menu. The menu is a long way off being confirmed, but pizza will be the primary focus backed up by some other red-sauce classics. Think slices of pepperoni pizza, spaghetti and meatballs, and eggplant parmigiana.
Stanton and Catsburg recently took a research trip to Los Angeles and New York for inspiration. One of Stanton’s favourites on his research trip was West Hollywood institution Jones.
“It’s been there forever. It’s a little bit mobster. A little bit dark. It’s all closed in, you can’t see inside from the outside, there’re leather booths, and they’re playing cool rock and roll. It’s not a fancy restaurant … it’s the kind of place you can get lost in all night,” Stanton tells Broadsheet. “We want [Leonardo’s] to be a place that feels like it’s been here forever – which it has – but then you’ll find this kind of party music going on as well.”
Leonardo’s Pizza Palace will takeover the space formerly home to Da Salvatore Pizza by the Metre, which has been operating as an Italian restaurant since 1959 on Grattan Street.
“The venue’s got beautiful bones. We want it to have that beautiful old feel to it,” Stanton says. “There’re beautiful beams running through the ceiling. Awesome exposed brick arches. It’s got this dining room at the back that’s fucking epic.”
Currently the private dining room features wood-panelled walls and exposed beams, as well as an old grill section, the canopy of which will be repurposed into a light fitting. But the main focus will be the front bar, where you’ll find DJs throwing down classic hits, carafes of natural wine, cocktails and tins of beer.
“Peroni Red is going to be the number one beer. It’s my favourite beer,” says Stanton.
Despite being the new kids on the block in the heart of Melbourne’s Italian restaurant community, Stanton isn’t fazed.
“We’re super excited. That’s what I first started cooking, pizza and Italian food. I kind of miss it. Carlton’s fucking incredible.”
Leonardo's Pizza Palace will open at the end of the year at 29 Grattan Street, Carlton.